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F-35 - News and Discussions

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Following is a an article from August 2020 edition of Airforces Monthly. It highlights in detail the net-centric capabilities that F-35 brings to the battlefield, enhancing the situational awareness of battlefield and strategic commanders many folds.

Mods, since this is a copy/paste feel free to delete if it violates any copyright guidelines.

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Information Warrior
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is the most connected fighter ever. It provides more data to the pilot, other aircraft and ground assets, for executing the fight, than any other aircraft in history

Last December two United States Air Force F-35A Lightning II flew high over the US Department of Defence’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Below them, two surrogate cruise missiles had been launched. The missiles’ target was a tactical command post operated by a US Army air and missile defence unit. These surrogate cruise missiles are able to mimic real cruise missiles and follow the terrain to hide from radar and other ground-based sensors, but that would not help them. The F-35A’s sensors detected the two surrogate missiles and its information was shared with the army’s missile defence unit. It is this networking capability that makes the Lightning II (renamed ‘Adir’ in Israel) special. All three types of the F-35 can fly supersonically and supercruise, both capabilities seen decades before on fast jets. These F-35s are difficult for radar to detect and keep track of with a low observable design, materials and radar-absorbing coatings. But it is not the first. The Lockheed Martin F-117 Knighthawk and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor are both stealthy and they both have internal weapons bays, like the F-35. The Knighthawk was retired in 2008 and the F-22 achieved initial operational capability in December 2005.

The Raptor, however, while having many of the capabilities of the F-35, was not designed to the same degree with multi- domain networking in mind. In the missile defence exercise last December, that F-35A sensor data was sent to the army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS), developed by Northrop Grumman. The F-35A used its Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) to connect with the IBCS. Available ground sensors, including the Raytheon Patriot weapon system and US Marine Corps TPS-59 radars could also feed their information into the IBCS. The air defence unit soldiers at the tactical command post receive the ICBS data on screen giving them a complete picture of their surroundings.
The F-35 data helped the soldiers identify the incoming cruise missile surrogates and launch two Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-2 interceptor missiles. The sensor data from the F-35 and other assets feeding the IBCS also provided in-flight updates as the interceptor missiles converged on their targets and ultimately destroyed them. “Information is ammunition, and IBCS is providing soldiers with more,” said Northrop Grumman IBCS programme director, Mark Rist in the company’s announcement about the test’s result. “It was the first [development test] including joint operations with the Air Force F-35 and Marine Corps radar systems.” In Lockheed Martin’s statement on the test, the company’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 programme, Greg Ulmer, said: “This test validated the F-35’s capability to serve as an airborne sensor and extend the range of critical integrated air and missile defence interceptors.” Ulmer added that the F-35’s sensors and connectivity enable it to share critical information with the, “joint fighting force to lead the multi-domain battlespace”. Multi-domain is the key phrase. The F-35 is able to operate in one domain, the air domain, and use the space and cyberspace domains to link with ground and sea-based assets to defeat an enemy. The F-35 is operated by a number of NATO member states and the alliance describes the aircraft as a “force multiplier”, which requires, “a realignment of tactics, techniques and procedures for Allied Air Command as NATO is establishing principles for modern aircraft integration,” NATO said.

The alliance
The alliance explained that with the enhanced situational awareness and integration capabilities of platforms, such as the F-35, air power, “will be characterised by collective operation and interoperability
of existing and modern aircraft”. Information on how the F-35 networking capabilities are used “is classified”, NATO said. “It’s about information, it’s about data, it’s about analysing and acting on it faster than an adversary can react,” the then USAF chief of staff Gen David Goldfein told his RAF guests in Washington, DC in October last year. The Royal Air Force (RAF) is a participant in the F-35 programme and its personnel were attending an annual USAF/RAF meeting, which included RAF ACM Mike Wigston. At the meeting, held at Georgetown University, Goldfein also explained that to win requires data, networks and the linking of allies’ systems.
The importance of information technology and interconnected networks, the origin of the name ‘Internet’, in the military sphere is now well understood. It is called network-centric warfare and the F-35’s capabilities are
designed for it. In late 1993, when the DoD’s Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) programme began, the cyberspace domain was simply the World Wide Web, which few people used. That JAST programme became the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme in 1995 and its fighter would be called the F-35 (see ‘F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme’ panel). The F-35 can network from anywhere, as it is the first
fighter to possess a satellite communications capability, it can send and receive information within the space domain. This satellite connectivity works with the aircraft’s other data links, allowing the F-35 to share data with other strike aircraft as well as other airborne, surface and ground-based platforms. One of the datalinks at the heart of this capability is MADL, a high- data-rate communications link between F-35 aircraft and other military assets.
MADL is a key capability provided by Northrop’s communications, navigation and identification (CNI) avionics. The CNI, according to the F-35 JSF programme, is the most advanced integrated avionics system ever engineered. Developed by Northrop Grumman, the CNI provides F-35 pilots with the capability of more than 27 avionics functions. These functions include identification friend or foe, precision navigation, and various voice and data communications. These technologies, the F-35 JSF programme states, mean the Lightning II can serve as a communications gateway for other platforms. For communication with other aircraft the Lightning II uses the Link 16 data link, the single channel ground and airborne radio system and secure ultra- high, very high and high frequency radios. NATO said: “National air forces will benefit from a higher quality of data provided by the F-35, compared to current platforms. NATO will also draw on these benefits as the F-35s become more and more integrated into NATO air power operations.” The information the F-35 can share with other platforms in other domains comes from its sensor suite; the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and distributed aperture system (DAS).

Next-generation radar
The F-35’s radar is the AESA Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81, which the company calls, “multi- mission”. The Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcon uses the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-80, and in 2004 the Raptor was using the fourth- generation variant of the AN/ APG-77 AESA radar. The AN/APG- 77 adopted elements of the AN/ APG-80 and the 81 to improve it. The F-35’s multi-function AN/ APG-81 radar can engage air and ground targets at long range. The F-35’s AESA radars also have electronic attack capabilities, including false targets, network attack, advanced jamming and algorithm-packed data streams. These electronic warfare capabilities enable the F-35 to locate and track enemy forces, detect radar emitter locations more easily and jam radio frequencies and suppress enemy radars. The F-35 has 10 times the effective radiated radar power of any legacy fighter, according to the F-35 programme. The programme also states that, “research indicates that adding more F-35s in a high-threat environment is far more effective than adding more single-mission, electronic attack support aircraft”. The F-35’s electronic warfare capabilities use the BAE Systems’ AN/ASQ-239 system. It provides fully integrated radar warning, targeting support and self- protection, to detect and defeat surface and airborne threats.
BAE says that the AN/ASQ-239’s avionics and sensors provide a, “real-time, 360-degree view of the battlespace, maximizing detection ranges and giving pilots evasion, engagement, countermeasure, and jamming options”. While the AESA radar can detect threats and targets over the horizon, the internally mounted EOTS can detect long-range air- to-air threats and enable precision targeting against ground targets. Located behind the durable sapphire windows that can be seen on the underside of the F-35’s nose, EOTS’ electro-optical technology uses short-wave infrared (IR). It can search for and track IR targets and mark those targets for a missile to find them using an eye-safe laser. EOTS is linked to the aircraft’s computer by a fibre-optic interface. Provided by Northrop Grumman, the AN/AAQ-37 DAS is also an IR electro-optical technology. DAS uses six polycrystalline silicon, low-observable, infrared transparent windows for the
IR sensors situated around the aircraft to provide a 360-degree view around the aircraft. This 360-degree view is stitched together by the aircraft’s computer to provide a picture anywhere the pilot looks. DAS can detect missiles’ launch and ascent, aircraft and ground targets, anything with a heat signature. DAS can also create a night vision like image (see ‘Pilot’s world view’ panel). All these sensors and networking capabilities are allowing the F-35 to locate a target for units, such as the artillery. In 2017, USMC Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft were involved in the Dawn Blitz exercise to direct rocket fire for the first time. According to a US Defence department article about Dawn Blitz, the exercise saw an F-35B co-operate with a ship-based high-mobility artillery rocket system that struck at a target about 43 miles (70km) away. During the exercise, the F-35B also provided electronic warfare, aerial reconnaissance, anti-air warfare and offensive air support. Last year, in November, the USAF and the 1st Armored Division Artillery trained together in Dona Ana, New Mexico as part of the F-35 programme’s joint strike fighter integration testing. A USAF F-35A flew just below 30,000ft over the test range. Maj William O’Neil, a fire support officer for the armoured division said in the DoD statement: “We are working with the air force and we are testing the ability of the US Army’s field artillery to receive messages from an F-35… for possible fire missions.” He added that, while they were using artillery on that occasion, “the goal is how we integrate a [Raytheon] Tomahawk cruise missile and other missile units at the division level into joint fires,” by which he means co-operatively attacking a target.

Project Riot
In September last year, Lockheed Martin announced that an F-35 had detected a long-range missile launch and shared the information through a Lockheed Martin U-2 Dragon Lady to an air defence commander on the ground. The exercise was the latest in a series of demonstrations to prove the F-35’s multi-domain networking capabilities. Networking demonstrations go back to 2013 and Project Missouri; the 2019 exercise had been called Project Riot. “The initial [2013] tests were focused on connectivity between platforms,” said Lockheed Martin Aeronautics F-35 development vice president, Jim McClendon. 2019’s Project Riot involved Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the US government’s Missile Defence Agency and the USAF to securely distribute the sensitive missile launch information across multiple platforms to a “multi- domain ground station”, as Lockheed described it. McClendon explained: “The focus of the more recent (Project Riot) tests was on interoperability and integrating F-35 information into off-board C4ISR [Command, Control,Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] systems.” According to Lockheed Martin, this level of connectivity reduces the “data-to-decision timeline from minutes to seconds”, to allow combat commanders to make quick decisions.
The defence firm refers to open systems architectures and distributed, system-of-systems architecture – it is within these that the networked F-35 operates. The US military and its contractors also see such architectures as the method to rapidly field increases in capability. Project Missouri in 2013 linked Raptors with the F-35. In 2015, Project Iguana linked an F-35 to F-16s and a U2, fifth- to fourth- generation platforms. Project Hunter in 2017 connected the same aircraft and a satellite. That project demonstrated collaborative weapon retargeting and covert assured communication Project Riot showed how to leverage F-35 sensor information for missile defence and that a, “multi-domain network of legacy and fifth generation systems,” could be realised. In a similar exercise held this year, an F-35 received data from a U-2 acting as an airborne relay. This was part of an Orange Flag Evaluation exercise involving the army
and air force near Edwards Air Force Base. The F-35 also sent its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to an IBCS. It was another example of how the F-35 could support all-domain joint operations, which means ground, air, sea and space assets co-operate and use cyberspace as a method for sharing information. The F-35’s substantial sensor suite with broad bandwidth connectivity to satellites and other aircraft are capabilities that will find their way onto other platforms. The Boeing F-15EX is an evolution of the Boeing F-15 Eagle and it will be a connected aircraft. Boeing states that the F-15EX will be able to: “operate independently when isolated and reconnect with the global cloud when conditions permit”. The USAF’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter programme envisaged a networked platform and NGAD concepts also use directed energy weapons. The navy has also referred to its future fast jet platform as NGAD. Last year, on October 2, the USAF stood-up the Programme Executive Office (PEO) for Advanced Aircraft. This new office will transform the NGAD programme into the Air Force’s Digital Century Series initiative. This initiative is about using all- digital design and manufacturing technologies to realise the NGAD platform and its capabilities.
The PEO will also be responsible for the Republic Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II, Boeing F-15 Eagle, Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, and the in-development, artificially intelligent, Skyborg drone.
There will be plenty of lessons to learn from F-35 for whatever comes next, NGAD or any other acronym. The US Congress’ Congressional Research Service May 2020 JSF programme report states that as the operational test and evaluation phase
on December 3, 2018 began there were, “873 unresolved deficiencies”. It stated that 13 of these are classified as “Category one ‘must-fix’ items that affect safety or combat capability”.
To whatever degree the networking capabilities of the F-35 actually work, it is still the most connected fighter ever and able to provide its pilot with greater situational awareness than any other – who else can literally look through their aircraft at their surroundings? The JSF is a turning point in fighter capability, its pilots use an American football term to describe it, the quarterback; the leader of the offensive team. Now a fighter is the leader of a team beyond the standard four-aircraft formation, it can lead the army, navy and other aircraft in the fight to win.


Pilot’s world view
While the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II can share information across domains, it shares its key data with its pilot through the Gen III helmet mounted display system (HMDS). The display system has to be precisely matched to the pilot’s own vision and so the Gen III helmet is custom fitted. Every pilot will have their head scanned for precise measurements from which a liner is produced. The helmet also has active noise reduction. The Gen III display gives pilots their information through its 40 x 30° field-of-view, high-brightness and high-resolution display with integrated digital night vision. The visor display can show picture-in-picture and it is compatible with eyeglasses and laser eye protection devices. When the F-35 pilot looks straight ahead they will see the typical heads-up display data in front of their eyes. Where other pilots using night-vision have to look through the soda straws of night vision goggle lenses, the F-35’s night imaging is projected onto the visor. This imaging is created by the computer with data from the distributed aperture system’s infra-red cameras. As such, the pilot can look through the bottom of his aircraft and see the terrain below as if his fighter was invisible. In August 2015, Rockwell Collins ESA Enhanced Vision Systems delivered the first Gen III helmet. Collins ESA Enhanced Vision Systems is a joint venture between Elbit Systems of America and Collins Aerospace.
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USMC accident: F-35B crash, KC-130J emergency landing


The pilot of an F-35B has ejected and parachuted himself to safety after colliding with a KC-130J during a mid-air refuelling operation over southern California, around 16:00 hrs (local time) on 29 September 2020. The KC-130J was able to make an emergency landing, all eight crew members survived. The F-35B pilot is reported to have slight injuries and is being treated.

The Lightning II crashed just north of the Salton Sea, Imperial County, after hitting a KC-130J tanker, forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing. The KC-130J, BuNo 166765/QB of VMGR-352, based at MCAS Miramar (CA), landed in a field in the vicinity of Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport.

The F-35B (BuNo unknown) disintegrated and is completely destroyed. It was operating out of Miramar too, but was based at Yuma AFB (AZ).
The cause of the collision is unknown. As can be seen on the photos of the KC-130J, both right wing engines are extensively damaged and the outer left wing engine is missing some blades. More info to follow when available.
 

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Listen To Intense Air Traffic Control Audio Of KC-130J's Collision With An F-35B

The recording is chilling, but it also provides new details about the terrifying incident.

By Tyler Rogoway
September 30, 2020
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In the early evening on September 29th, 2020, The War Zone was among the first to report on the collision between a USMC KC-130J Hercules tanker-transport and an F-35B Lightning II fighter from the same service in a military operating area (MOA) adjacent to the Salton Sea in Southern California. The Marines confirmed that the F-35B pilot safely ejected and the KC-130J made an emergency landing and everyone on board survived. Now, thanks to recorded air traffic control audio, we can hear exactly what communications were like before and after the collision occurred, as well as learn a number of new details about the mishap.

The audio was posted by JetScan1 over at LiveATC.net, you can listen to it for yourself here.


The KC-130J, which belongs to VMGR-352 "Raiders" based at nearby MCAS Miramar, was flying under the callsign RAIDER 50. In the recording, RAIDER 50's crew requested to LA Center to fly into the high altitude block of the Kane West MOA, which sits mainly on the west side of the Sulton Sea, but also crosses over it at its midpoint. The MOA was active at the time, but the KC-130J crew was aware of the other traffic. They were cleared to enter into it at 17,000 feet.

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You can see the large Kane West MOA that straddles the west side and crosses over the Salton Sea.


Next, we hear LA Center reply to American Airlines Flight 237 that saw some sort of explosion on the ground near where it was flying over. Immediately after we hear RAIDER 50 declare an emergency:

"LA Center LA Center, RAIDER 50 declaring an emergency, midair collision with VOLT 93. We have two engines out, we're leaking fuel, and likely on fire, and in emergency descent at this time. RAIDER 50."

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VMGR-352 "Raiders" flying over what appears to be the Salton Sea.

The controller at LA Center then tries to confirm the KC-130 is in the Kane West MOA and asks to clarify if they are indeed "going down now." RAIDER 50 comes back on frequency back and states:

"We declare an emergency. We still have partial control of the aircraft. Two engines out. We are aiming towards uh..."

RAIDER 50 then cuts out and the controller asks for clarification if they are heading towards NAF El Centro or the airport at nearby Imperial, both of which are located to the south of Kane West MOA. The controller tries to raise them again, but there is no response.

Another voice comes on repeating that they think they said they had a mid-air and have two engines out. Another voice snaps back warning N979CF, a Hawker bizjet, not to clog the frequency and states that there is a plume of black smoke on the ground in the Kane West MOA and notes it came into sight about the time RAIDER 50 called in the emergency. He adds "there's at least one aircraft down it looks like."

LA Center thanks the voice and another comes on and says "impact looks like it was prior to his last transmission."


RAIDER 50 is once again talking to LA Center, but they cannot be heard in the recording, likely because they had dropped significantly in altitude. The controller asks RAIDER 50 to clarify that they were attempting to head to Thermal, an airport located just beyond the northern edge of the Salton Sea. That is confirmed. Then the controller says "RAIDER 50, I understand you are about 20 miles away and you are looking for the winds, let me get the winds for you. The wind is 150 at 08 knots."
RAIDER 50 then confirms engines number four and three are out and that they have the airport in sight at about 15 miles out. The controller then gives them a number to LA Center to call on the ground once they land and passes the airport's UNICOM frequency to the crew.
That's where the recording cuts off. We know the aircraft didn't land at Thermal, it ended up in a farmer's field, badly damaged, on its belly, but still overall intact. Everyone survived.
Truly amazing work by the crew.


By my count this thing should have about 3 more propellers, 1 more refueling pod, and 1 more aileron. pic.twitter.com/oK5t8mzAy3
— essential-ish turbonerd (@overdesigned) September 30, 2020
The professionalism and relative calm that is showcased in this recording by all those involved is truly remarkable.
Although we only have limited details about this mishap, one thing is clear, RAIDER 50's crew has one hell of a story to tell.

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VMGR-352 flying their iconic Jolly Roger.
 

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US to Keep Buying F-35 Parts From Turkey, Despite Purchase Ban

1 Oct 2020
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An F-35 Lightning II "Heritage Flight Team" pilot from Luke Air Force Base prepares to exit the cockpit at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 20, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Airman Gabrielle Spalding)

The U.S. will continue to buy parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from Turkey through 2022, despite Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system billed as an "F-35 killer" by Moscow, the Pentagon's top acquisitions official said Thursday.

The Trump administration in July 2019 banned Turkey from participation in the multinational F-35 program. But the Defense Department had to continue buying Turkish-made parts to maintain production, said Ellen Lord, DoD's Under Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment.

Turkish factories currently make more than 900 parts for the F-35's center fuselage, cockpit display systems and other components, Lord said, adding that a complete cutoff in December as initially planned would result in about $1 billion in replacement costs that would slow down production of the aircraft.

"So we made a decision on a number of parts that it was smarter in terms of taxpayer dollars and warfighter readiness to let those contracts play out in Turkey so that we wouldn't have these huge termination liability costs," Lord told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness and management support. "So we have a few of the [Turkish-made] products that will go until 2022."

However, "we are well on our way" in eliminating Turkey completely from the F-35 program, "and the bulk of the parts will be out by the end of year," she said.

Over vehement objections from DoD, NATO ally Turkey began taking deliveries of the S-400 Triumf advanced air defense system from Russia in early July 2019, at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion.

Later that month, the White House announced that Turkey was being formally removed from participation in the F-35 program.

"Unfortunately, Turkey's decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defence systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible," then-White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said at the time. "The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities."

Turkish pilots were also banned from continuing their training on the F-35. The country had planned to buy about 100 of the jets.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., questioned whether the continued purchase of parts from Turkey had the potential to allow sensitive information on the F-35's stealthy technology to be passed on to Russia.

"We have worked very, very closely with Turkey" to prevent the possibility of Russia gaining an edge, Lord said, but she declined to give details, and suggested scheduling a closed session for further discussion.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, the subcommittee's chairman, said he would recommend a closed session and added that he hoped the Pentagon had "learned a lesson" from Turkey's purchase of the S-400.

"Turkey's an important ally," he said, but "we can't be reliant on an ally that all of a sudden starts to be very focused on cooperation with one of our biggest strategic adversaries."
 

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Lockheed, Pentagon agree on $70.6M settlement over F-35 parts problems

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Lockheed Martin and the Defense Department reach an agreement on Tuesday to resolve compensation issues for improperly identified spare parts for the F-35 fighter plane. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force

(UPI) -- Lockheed Martin will invest nearly $71 million to correct an ongoing problem with spare parts for the F-35 fighter plane, according to the Pentagon.

The agreement, announced on Tuesday, will be formalized within two weeks, a Defense Contract Management Agency spokesman said.

The deal refers to over 15,000 F-35 spare parts delivered to the U.S. military without "electric equipment logs," which permit the parts to the identified and absorbed into logistics systems.

Incorrect or unavailable information delays the uploading of data, and the dispute centered on at least $183 million in Defense Department expenses owing to the problem.

The parts in question were rejected for installation only because of the lack of tracking data -- no flaws in safety or manufacturing were inferred, officials said.

The action was initiated after the Pentagon's inspector general discovered the problem in a 2019 audit, and recommended that the Defense Department should seek $303 million in refunds.

Instead of a direct payment from Lockheed, the defense contractor will "compensate the government with Lockheed Martin investments" to ensure that future spare parts are delivered with accurate EELs, company spokesman Brett Ashworth said.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee was critical of Lockheed during a July hearing, but on Wednesday, committee members Rep. Carolyn Mahoney, D-N.Y., and Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., applauded the resolution of the dispute.

"We applaud the Department of Defense for its efforts to hold Lockheed Martin accountable for failing to meet its F-35contract requirements," Mahoney and Lynch said in a joint statement.

"While we believe Lockheed should have reimbursed American taxpayers for a greater share of the funds DOD spent to address the inefficiencies uncovered by our committee's investigation, this is a step in the right direction. We look forward to seeing the final signed agreement that codifies Lockheed Martin's commitment to improving the F-35 program," they said in the joint statement.
 

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F-35 crash caused by technical glitch, distracted pilot

By Christen McCurdy
Oct. 6, 2020
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An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron awaits permission to taxi as an F-22 Raptor assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron takes off in the background in December 2018 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Photo by Peter Thompson/U.S. Air Force

Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The May crash of an F-35A Lightning II at Florida's Eglin Air Force base was caused by the pilot trying to land at an excessive speed, and a flight control logic glitch that left its tail unresponsive, according to a new report.

According to the report, the pilot was also fatigued, causing "cognitive degradation" and was distracted at a critical point in the flight and lacked key understanding of the flight-control logic.

The pilot, who has not been identified, was safely ejected from the aircraft as it landed on the base and did not sustain serious injuries.

Investigators also found problems with the aircraft's oxygen system.

The pilot had nearly 138 hours of flight time in the F-35A, including slightly more than 53 instructor hours and eight night flying hours.

The May 19 crash was the second involving a fifth-generation fighter at Eglin that week, coming four days after an F-22 crash on the same base.

Leadership on the base subsequently put flights on hold on the base.

The report did not discuss corrective actions or flight safety restrictions as a result of the accident.
 

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Tyndall Air Force Base chosen for three new F-35 squadrons
March 30, 2021
By Christen McCurdy

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A F-22 Raptor from the 325th Fighter Wing flies alongside a F-35 Lightning II from the 33rd Fighter Wing over the Emerald Coast in Florida, where Tyndall Air Force Base has been selected to host three F-35 squadrons. Photo by Savanah Bray/U.S. Air Force


March 30 (UPI) -- Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base will host three new squadrons of the F-35 Lightning II, the Air Force announced Tuesday.

Air Force officials selected Tyndall based on its "infrastructure capability, quality of life for Airmen and airspace," according to the service's press release.

The selection process, which included an environmental impact analysis, followed a 2018 proposal to base the aircraft at Tyndall after a $3 billion redesign of the installation, which is situated near Panama City in Florida's panhandle.

That redesign, prompted by extensive damage from Hurricane Michael, allowed the base to become the Defense Department's first Installation of the Future.

"The airspace surrounding Tyndall is a national treasure," Moseley said. "The type of training conducted here integrates the DoD's most advanced aircraft and builds a dynamic force," Col. Greg Moseley, 325th Fighting Wing commander, said in the Air Force release.

The aircraft will be delivered to three fighter squadrons at the base in multiple phases, the Air Force said, with the first plane scheduled to arrive in September 2023.

Each squadron will have 24 Joint Strike Fighters assigned, for a total of 72 assigned to the installation's 325th FW.

Earlier this week, the Air Force announced that semi-autonomous robot dogs have begun guarding Tyndall as part of the 325th Security Forces Squadron.

The robotic dogs carry a variety of cameras and other sensors, can traverse difficult terrain in extreme temperatures, crouch for a lower center of gravity and have a "high-step" mode to change leg mobility.
 

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APRIL 16, 2021

“The operating costs of the F-35 are high because they are designed to be” interview with Dan Grazier from the Project On Government Oversight​

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Dan Grazier is a US Marine Corps veteran, journalist and is now part of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste. We grilled him on the real cost of the F-35, what went wrong and what can be learnt for future military aircraft projects.



What is the real price of a F-35A/B/C? How does it differ from quoted prices and why does it?
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A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), takes off from the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) during a U.S. Air Forces Central (AFCENT) Agile Combat Employment (ACE) event, March 1. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick Crosley)


“The real costs of all the F-35 variants can be found in the service’s budget documents, all of which are available online. The F-35A cost $110.3 million per aircraft in 2020, the F-35B $135.8 million, and the F-35C $117.3 million. These costs differ significantly from the advertised prices. The difference is that all the costs necessary to build each aircraft are spread across multiple budget years. The services budget for advance procurement to purchase components in earlier years, but then claim that the money spent in the actual production year is the total cost which is definitely not the case. This is a deliberate public relations ploy to make the F-35 look better on paper and make it appear as though the program is meeting its cost goals.”

How are quoted cost manipulated?

“Besides the advance procurement budgetary trick, the Pentagon also fails to factor in all of the other costs that go into producing a functional aircraft for the rosy figures quoted so often in the press. They don’t mention the research and development costs that should be distributed across each aircraft purchased, the cost to construct the specialized facilities wherever F-35s are based, and now the costs to “modernize” the F-35. It’s important for everyone to understand that much of the work the program managers claim is to upgrade the F-35 now is really to complete design work that was supposed to be included in the original R&D effort but was deferred in an attempt to stay within their budget and schedule forecasts.

Why is the F-35’s price per flight hour so high?

“The operating costs are high because they are designed to be so. From the very beginning of the program, the F-35 was set up to operate as a “total system performance responsibility” enterprise which meant that the services were intentionally surrendering a great deal of control over the maintenance and operations of the weapon they were buying to the contractors. This incentivised the contractors to design the aircraft in such a way that only their personnel could perform many of the maintenance actions on the aircraft. It is nearly always more expensive to use contractor personnel to perform work for the government, which certainly drives up the cost-per-flight-hour. It also means that the government has only one source bidding for these contracts, so there is little incentive to lower costs.”

“The operating costs are high because they are designed to be so.” so, this is a deliberate thing, did Lockheed know from early on it would not be the ‘affordable’ aircraft promised?

“That is perhaps a better question for them to answer. What we do know is that the real money to be made in a program like this is in the long-term sustainment contracts. It makes perfect business sense for a company’s leaders to take all the steps possible to ensure they receive those contracts.”



Is the F-35 a worse-run programme than other combat aircraft? Which other projects stand out as being badly run?

“That’s a difficult question to answer and probably isn’t the right one to ask at this point. I actually sympathise with the people running the program today. In many ways, they are victims of circumstance. They inherited a deeply flawed program and are now trying to make the best of things. The problems we see today with the F-35 stem from a flawed concept. The total system performance responsibility scheme is an obvious example. The F-35 should put the nail in the coffin on the idea that you can design and build a multi-role aircraft. That really bad idea, and people knew it was a bad idea as they were scratching out concept for the F-35 in the 1990s, was then compounded by trying to build an aircraft that could meet the needs of three different services, and then compounded again by trying to meet the needs of 8 different partner nations. With that level of complexity built into the basic concept of the F-35, the cost increases and schedule delays were absolutely inevitable. The real villains of the F-35 saga aren’t the people in charge today. Rather it is the people who made the decisions two decades ago that the people today have to live with. Of course, that does not absolve the people today who compound those bad decisions by not providing honest assessments about the F-35 to Congress and the American people. There are still decisions to be made in the years ahead about the future of the program. Without the whole truth, more bad decisions will pile on top of those already made.”

Which other military aircraft programmes stand out as well or badly run?
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Boeing Flight Test & Evaluation – Boeing Field – KC-46, VH004, EMD2, PDL, Pilot Director Lights test, boom deployed

“At the moment, the KC-46 is a definite standout. The Air Force set out to build a direct replacement for the existing aerial refuellers. They were essentially trying to reinvent the wheel, not produce a design with new capabilities. They even began with a proven airframe in the 767 and still managed to bungle the effort by trying to add futuristic solutions like the remote boom operator station when the existing setups in the KC-135 and KC-10 work perfectly well.”

Some in the Air Force want a new lightweight fighter to replace the F-16, what are the key lessons that should inform such a projects should it happen?

“A new lightweight fighter should begin with the same design principles of the original lightweight fighter program from the 1960s. It should be designed for that specific mission. Every effort should be made to keep the design as simple as possible. The aircraft should be designed in such a way that all but depot-level maintenance can be performed by uniformed crews in the field. The government should not sign a contract for the aircraft that does not include the government obtaining all the data rights. If foreign countries want to purchase the final product, the modifications they want should be made to the aircraft after it goes into production for the Air Force.”

Is the US structurally unable to run a swift economical military aircraft project, if so why?

“I think the challenge is overcoming cultural issues rather than anything structural. The military and by extension the defense industry, have an overall go-along to get-along culture. No one gets promoted by being the person who stands up and says there is a major problem with a pet project of their service or in any way impedes the free-flow of money from the Treasury to the defense contractors via the Pentagon. The defense contractors want to sell products to the military that are going to make them a lot of money, not just at the time of delivery, but throughout the product’s lifespan. Many of the people in uniform want to take their retirement and then get an even bigger paycheck on top of that through a sinecure in the defense industry. They know that if they stand in the way of a project, no nice person wearing a suit is going to come calling when retirement time comes around.”

Dan Grazier
Jack Shanahan Military Fellow, Center for Defense Information
Straus Military Reform Project
 

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Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE
April 14, 2021
ReutersPatricia Zengerle

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U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has told Congress it is proceeding with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, armed drones and other equipment, congressional aides said on Tuesday.

A State Department spokesperson said the administration would move forward with the proposed sales to the UAE, "even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials" related to the use of the weapons.

The Democratic president’s administration had paused the deals agreed to by former Republican President Donald Trump in order to review them. The sales to the Gulf nation were finalized right before Trump left office.

The Trump administration told Congress in November it had approved the U.S. sale to the UAE as a side deal to the Abraham Accords, a U.S.-brokered agreement in September in which the UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

In the last months of the Trump administration, Israel reached deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco as part of the accords.

The $23.37 billion package contained products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N), including 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

YEMEN CONFLICT

Some U.S. lawmakers have criticized the UAE for its involvement in the war in Yemen, a conflict considered one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters, and worried that the weapons transfers might violate U.S. guarantees that Israel will retain a military advantage in the region.

Israel said it did not object to the sales.

A legislative effort to stop the sales failed in December, as Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress backed his plans.

The Trump administration then finalized the massive sale to the UAE on Jan. 20, about an hour before Biden was sworn in as president.

The Biden administration announced the review in late January and the UAE said then it had anticipated the review and welcomed joint efforts to de-escalate tensions and for renewed regional dialogue.

The State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday the estimated delivery dates on the UAE sales, if implemented, were for after 2025 or later.

The government anticipated "a robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE" to ensure a stronger security partnership, the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

"We will also continue to reinforce with the UAE and all recipients of U.S. defense articles and services that U.S.-origin defense equipment must be adequately secured and used in a manner that respects human rights and fully complies with the laws of armed conflict," the statement said.

The Biden administration is also reviewing its policy for military sales to Saudi Arabia, including some Trump-era weapons deals, in light of the Saudi involvement in Yemen and other human rights concerns.

It has not released the results of that review. In February, U.S. officials told Reuters the administration was considering cancelling past deals that posed human rights concerns and limiting future sales to “defensive” weapons.
 

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EXCLUSIVE As Biden advances UAE F-35 sale, senators seek more control of arms deals

April 16, 2021

Two senior Democratic senators will introduce legislation on Friday that would reassert Congress' oversight of international weapons deals, after President Joe Biden's administration decided to go ahead with a $23 billion sale to the United Arab Emirates that had worried lawmakers, congressional aides said.

The bill, seen by Reuters, will be introduced by Senators Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, a senior member of the intelligence committee.

The "Secure F-35 Exports Act of 2020" would apply to the sale of the sophisticated U.S. military technology to countries that are not NATO members or Israel, Australia, Japan, South Korea or New Zealand.

Among other things, it would bar the sale of the F-35s - which can take years after a deal is agreed - unless any president makes detailed certifications to Congress that the critical technology would not fall into the wrong hands, or otherwise compromise advanced technology.


It also would require that any sale to a Middle Eastern country other than Israel not compromise Israel's military advantage over such countries, and come with assurances that the aircraft would not be used in operations harmful to Israel's security.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that the Biden administration had told lawmakers it was proceeding with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, armed drones and other equipment. read more

The Democrat's administration had paused the deals agreed to by former Republican President Donald Trump to allow a review.

The sales to the Gulf nation were signed right before Trump left office on Jan. 20, and many members of Congress - especially Biden's fellow Democrats - felt they had been rushed through without proper review. read more


"We must enact protections to ensure the incredibly sensitive technology of these aircraft is not compromised by powers hostile to the United States, including making sure the UAE pulls back from its burgeoning relationship with China and other U.S. competitors," Menendez said in a statement provided to Reuters.

The Trump administration told Congress in November it had approved the U.S. sale to the UAE as a side deal to the Abraham Accords, a U.S.-brokered agreement in September in which the UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

In the last months of the Trump administration, Israel reached deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco as part of the accords.

The $23.37 billion package contained products from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N), including 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.


Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have also said they are worried by Biden's decision. Representative Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Wednesday he and other lawmakers were concerned about the decision and would review the transactions. L1N2M735P
 

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Senators Menendez, Feinstein Introduce Secure F-35 Exports Act
April 16, 2021
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Secure F-35 Exports Act of 2021, legislation to reassert Congressional oversight over the sale of sophisticated and mission-critical American military systems. The legislation comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s reported decision to proceed with the sale of $23 billion in weapon sales including the F-35 aircraft to the United Arab Emirates, a deal that was originally rushed through by the Trump administration.


The Secure F-35 Exports Act of 2020 ensures that any such sale will not proceed to delivery of aircraft unless and until the President can make detailed certifications to Congress that the United States’ aircraft technology and Israel’s security are fully protected.

“I remain concerned with the implications of a sale of our most advanced fighter jet given numerous outstanding, unanswered questions about the implications of this sale for U.S. national security, our technology interests, and implications for regional stability including the legal parameters of Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. But if the Administration has decided to proceed with this Trump-era deal, then we must enact protections to ensure the incredibly sensitive technology of these aircraft is not compromised by powers hostile to the United States, including making sure the UAE pulls-back from its burgeoning relationship with China and other U.S. competitors,” said Chairman Menendez. “This legislation lays out the types of assurances and commitments the United States must have to safeguard this sale.”

“Congress has an obligation to uphold U.S. policy and ensure that weapons sales to foreign governments don’t undermine Israel’s military edge. Our bill achieves that goal by restricting sales of the F-35 – our most sophisticated aircraft – until the administration certifies to Congress that the sale complies with that objective,” said Senator Feinstein. “I’m proud to join Senator Menendez in introducing this bill to solidify Congress’ role in overseeing arms sales.”

Find a copy of the Secure F-35 Exports Act of 2021 HERE.


The legislation’s key provisions include:

  • Requires that the President assess and report to Congress, before any provision of F-35 aircraft to countries that are not NATO members or Israel, Australia, Japan, South Korea or New Zealand:
  • a full assessment of the risks presented by such sale, export, or transfer to the security of the United States, including to the critical military and technological military advantage such aircraft provide to the United States Armed Forces; and
  • a certification that such sale, export, or transfer does not present a significant danger of compromising the critical military and technological military advantage such aircraft provide to the United States Armed Forces.
  • such sale will not compromise or undermine Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME);
  • strong assurances have been made that these aircraft will not be used in activities or operations inimical to the security of Israel, or to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States;
  • sufficient technology security measures will be required to prevent espionage against these aircraft; and
  • if these assurances are violated, the U.S. will have the means to counter those violations.
  • the provision of F-35 aircraft will not undermine Israel’s QME;
  • the U.S. has instituted technology security measures;
  • such country has not transferred any US-origin arms to terrorists or adversaries of Israel or the United States;
  • such country has not provided weapons from any source directly or indirectly to armed militias fighting against partners and allies of the U.S.;
  • such country has not conducted surveillance on any U.S. citizen or committing on enabling human rights violations; and
  • such country has not acquired foreign technology to compromise the technology of such aircraft.
  • the U.S. continues to institute technology security measures;
  • the recipient country has not engaged in military, paramilitary, or intelligence operations inimical to the security of Israel or to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States within the year prior to the certification; and
  • the recipient country has not committed or enabled human rights violations.
  • Requires a certification by the President before the provision of F-35 aircraft to a Middle Eastern country other than Israel that:
  • Requires a certification by the President before delivery that:
  • Requires, for 10 years subsequent to delivery of F-35 aircraft, annual certifications that:
  • Requires the President to assess whether Israel is in danger of suffering a quantitative military disadvantage from the buildup of armed forces by other countries in the Middle East.
 

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‘Don’t expect more money’ for additional F-35s in FY22, lawmakers tell an embattled Lockheed

By: Valerie Insinna  

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U.S. Air Force F-35A assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron prepares to taxi and take off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 24, 2019. (Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski/U.S. Air Force)


WASHINGTON — Two influential Democrat lawmakers warned on Thursday that they will not support boosting the number of Lockheed Martin-made F-35 joint strike fighters in the upcoming fiscal 2022 budget unless the program makes headway in addressing a laundry list of problems.

“If this program continues to fail to significantly control and reduce actual and projected sustainment costs, we may need to invest in other, more affordable programs and backfill an operational shortfall of potentially over 800 tactical fighters,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land subcommittee.

“Given the overall affordability concerns that exist within the program, I would not support any requests for additional aircraft beyond what is contained in this year’s president’s budget request,” he said during a hearing on the F-35.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., who leads HASC’s readiness subcommittee, doubled down on Norcross’s vow to fight adding extra F-35s to the FY22 budget.

“The program is over budget. It fails to deliver on promised capabilities. And its mission capability rates do not even begin to meet the service thresholds,” Garamendi said. “Industry’s solution to many of these problems is simply to ask the taxpayers to throw money at the problem. That will not happen. The easy days of the past are over.”

“Don’t expect more money,” he added. “Do not expect to have more planes purchased than authorized in the president’s budget. That’s not going to happen.”

During the joint hearing of HASC’s readiness and tactical air subcommittees, lawmakers expressed alarm about a long list of issues, including an ongoing shortage of the jet’s Pratt & Whitney F135 engine and maintenance costs that — if left at current levels — service officials have said would be untenable.

They also indicated concerns about the “Tech Refresh 3” effort that upgrades the F-35′s computing systems, which Norcross said was five months behind schedule and will likely be nearly $450 million over its planned budget, as well as anticipated delays on the Block 4 modernization program that improves software and adds new weaponry to the aircraft.


Norcross and Garamendi’s comments could represent a shift among lawmakers, who have since 2015 persistently added F-35s to the defense spending bill above and beyond what the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps asked for in their budget requests.

In FY21, for instance, the Defense Department requested 79 joint strike fighters. Ultimately, congressional appropriators boosted funding for the program by $1.6 billion in order to buy an additional 17 jets: 12 F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing models for the Air Force, and seven F-35C carrier variants for the Navy and Marine Corps.

The Defense Department purchased 98 F-35s in FY20, in part due to lawmakers adding a total of 20 jets to the omnibus spending bill.

“The tactical air and land subcommittee has been supportive of this program in the past,” Norcross said. “But as we’ve said many times, we don’t have unlimited resources as we chase this elusive affordability of the program.”

Garamendi added that the F-35s added to the budget have only compounded the sustainment challenges faced by the military.

Although Democrats were more vocal about their concerns, GOP lawmakers also acknowledged that the program could face severe cuts unless performance improved.

“If our industry stakeholders don’t succeed in quickly driving down the sustainment cost of the F 35. I fear critics of the program will be dealt a stronger hand in their calls to gut the program,” said Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn, the top Republican on the readiness subcommittee.

Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the ranking Republican on HASC’s tactical airpower subcommittee, stated that the F-35 program is making some progress, but added that she shared her colleagues’ concerns about capability delays, affordability issues and readiness problems.

Norcross and Garamendi could find support for restricting the number of F-35s purchased per year from HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., who called the program a “rathole” in March. During a Thursday morning event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, Smith said he intends to keep the pressure on the F-35 joint program office and Lockheed Martin.

“I know how important the F-35 is, I do. And for all those people out there trying to educate me on it, I have been to the classified briefings. I know what the Chinese have as well as anybody,” he said. “But at $38,000 an hour to fly with an availability rate sub 50 percent, with an engine that is apparently going to become very difficult to fix past about 2030 so that even fewer of our planes are available, I think we can do better.”

Although the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have repeatedly placed additional F-35s on their unfunded priorities lists — which essentially functions as a wish list of items the services would like to buy if their budgets were larger — there are signs that at least the Air Force could try to roll back this practice.

Lt. Gen Clint Hinote, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, has said only F-35′s modified with the upcoming Block 4 upgrade would be of use in a fight against a near-peer nation like China.

“I will absolutely say it doesn’t make sense to buy more of the aircraft that you don’t need,” he told Defense News in March. “So when Congress adds in the aircraft — I’ll be the first to say my service has put it on the unfunded request list for some years now. I don’t know exactly when we started doing that; I’d have to go back and look. But that’s probably not the right thing to do.”
 
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